LOCAL

Share the beach with shorebirds this winter

The Destin Log

This winter season, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reminds beachgoers how to help protect vulnerable resident and migratory shorebirds and seabirds while enjoying Florida’s coastal habitats.

Each winter, Florida’s resident shorebirds and seabirds are joined by both human and avian snowbirds coming to our state’s shorelines from colder climates. Both resident and migratory shorebirds rely on Florida’s sandy beaches for important habitat and resting spots. Whether you’re a fellow sunshine state resident or a visitor to our beaches this winter, you can have a big impact on conservation of coastal birds. Help shorebirds and seabirds along our coasts by following these simple shorebird-friendly tips:

A piping plover runs across the beach in Maine. The threatened shorebird is being seen in record numbers on Maine beaches during summer 2022.

Resist the urge to feed the birds. Sharing snacks with birds at the beach may seem harmless or even helpful but it can be harmful to them and other wildlife. Shorebirds and seabirds are healthiest when eating the natural prey they normally forage for, such as small invertebrates in the sand and fish they’ve caught themselves from the water.

Do the flock walk. Instead of walking straight through, try walking around flocks of birds at the beach and stay out of posted areas. Getting too close to resting shorebirds, seabirds and wading birds can cause them to flush, disturbing birds that may need important rest from long migratory flights.  

Look for Critical Wildlife Area closures. Be on the lookout for signs designating Critical Wildlife Areas on the beach or coastal islands – these areas are closed to public access to protect high concentrations of wading birds and shorebirds. Boaters and beachgoers can help birds by keeping their distance and noise volumes low near CWAs.

Keep your pups at home. Even well-behaved dogs can frighten shorebirds, causing them to panic and expend valuable energy. If you bring your dog with you to the shore, go to a beach where they’re allowed and follow all leash laws.

Properly stash all trash. Trash and food scraps attract predators while litter on beaches and in the water can entangle birds, turtles and other wildlife. Beachgoers can help birds and other native wildlife by properly disposing of all trash, filling in man-made holes in the sand, and removing all personal gear from the beach before sunset. Fishing line can be deadly to waterbirds, sea turtles and other wildlife, so be sure to dispose of it properly. To find a monofilament recycling station near you, visit mrrp.myfwc.com.

For more information about ways to help shorebirds in Florida while at the beach, go to MyFWC.com/Shorebirds and download the “Share the Beach with Beach-Nesting Birds” brochure. Or go to the Florida Shorebird Alliance website at FLShorebirdAlliance.org to learn more about how to participate in shorebird and seabird conservation efforts.

A marbled godwit feeds at Bunche Beach in south Fort Myers on Sunday, July 25, 2022.The shorebird uses its long bill to dig into the mud flats for a meal.